Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Mercury rising – now with shortlist

You know the score. Later this morning – provided someone doesn’t leak the list between now and then – the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize will be announced and the debate will begin. It’s the same debate which has …

Tue, Jul 19, 2011, 08:33


You know the score. Later this morning – provided someone doesn’t leak the list between now and then – the shortlist for the Mercury Music Prize will be announced and the debate will begin. It’s the same debate which has happened every year since the first Mercury Music Prize back in 1992, with much the same points being made over and over again. Call it Groundhog Day with a side-order of jazz.

While some will argue that the Mercury and prizes of this ilk do not matter any more in a time when people are buying less and less albums, the amount of interest it gets every year belies that reasoning. Leaving aside media coverage – the Mercury is one of those annual set-pieces which gets covered because it now has a permanent place on the events calendar – it’s the fact that music fans take up cudgels for and against the shortlisted acts which gives this award considerable kudos. Getting on the shortlist does mean you’re going to sell more records in the coming months (well, unless you’re Speech Debelle).

So who’s going to make the list? It’s worth bearing in mind that all predictions come with a significant handicap because we don’t know yet which acts and albums have actually put themselves forward for contention. You need to apply and pay a fee of around £200 to be considered for the Mercury and the numbers are small, compared to the overall number of albums released (for example, only 233 acts bothered to apply in 2007). Therefore, not every album released in the period under review is eligible. Strangely, this point is rarely mentioned when reports are compiled on the award.

Then, there’s the fact that the judges themselves don’t have the final say on the make-up of the shortlist. It’s worth reading what former judge Jude Rogers had to say about how the votes of the 10 judges are collated. “How are the choices then collated?”, she said in a piece describing her experience as a Mercury judge. “Sadly, I don’t know. It remains “confidential”, but I wish that it wasn’t.” I suppose it’s this “confidential” process which ensures there’s always a token jazz/folk album on the list (like Kit Downes last year).

Quibbles aside, I think we can safely expect the record labels who represent PJ Harvey, James Blake, Wild Beasts, Elbow and Adele to have ponied up the cash and all five will probably make the cut. There will be at least one other electronic album aside from Blake and that will be SBTRKT, Gold Panda, Jamie Woon or Mount Kimbie, all of which are in the reckoning in terms of release dates. One or maybe two of Metronomy, The Unthanks and Anna Calvi will probably feature and, in terms of the aul’ nod to the urban mainstream, Tinie Tempah or Katy B will make the final list.

The Mercury has a peculiar desire to attempt to be hip with its choices so that might help Ghostpoet or Dels. There shouldn’t be a berth for Radiohead simply because even diehard fans reckon “The King Of Limbs” is not a very good album. Irish albums? I think James Vincent McMorrow’s excellent “Early In the Morning” might well sneak onto the list on the back of his UK campaign in the last few months. The WTF? choice: Three Trapped Tigers, if they applied in the first place.

We’ll publish the list when we have it so you have a couple of hours to make your call.

Youse can stop guessing because here’s the shortlist:

Adele “21″ (XL)
Anna Calvi “Anna Calvi” (Domino)
Elbow “Build A Rocket Boys!” (Fiction)
James Blake “James Blake” (Atlas)
Katy B “On A Mission” (Rinse)
Metronomy “The English Riviera” (Because)
PJ Harvey “Let England Shake” (Island)
Everything Everything “Man Alive” (Geffen)
Tinie Tempah “Disc-overy” (EMI)
King Cresote & Jon Hopkins “Diamond Mine” (Domino)
Ghostpoet “Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam” (Brownswood)
Gwilym Simcock “Good Days At Schloss Elmau” (ACT) (review here so you can also become an instant expert)

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